From the forums:
I’ve gotten several complaints from the upstairs neighbor about the noise level of our TV even though I try very hard to make sure that the television is at an appropriate level. There was one night I got a complaint when I was the only one home and in bed! Usually, I respond to the complaints with an “I’m very sorry, we’ll keep it down,” but now I’m starting to get infuriated with the complaints.
We’ve never once complained about the noises coming from their apartment with their two children running around and dropping things, the opera (!) lessons taught out of the space, and the incessant vacuuming. We’ve definitely had our share of annoyances, but WE have always let them go because noise pollution is part of living in a big city, you know?
Anyway, I got another email from the neighbor today that says:
“Hello [me and boyfriend],
I hope all is well with you! I am writing with a request: the TV is really loud in the evenings and has been waking all of us up. Would it be possible for you to turn the volume down, especially after 10 pm? It wasn’t this loud prior to the summer, so maybe it has to do with where it’s situated.
I’m kind of tired of just apologizing for every little thing, especially when I don’t think it is really our fault, and we’ve done everything we can to be kind and courteous neighbors.
I wrote this up today, thinking I might send it to her, but I’m afraid of how it comes across:
Hi [Upstairs Neighbor],
I apologize if the television has been loud lately. The furniture in our living area hasn’t changed in well over a year, so I don’t think that is causing a problem with the sound. Also, we rarely have the television on during the weekdays after 10:00pm. (We’re usually in bed by 11:00pm!) Could it be a television next door that has the volume up?
I feel like we make an effort to keep the noise levels down, and we will continue to do so. We also understand that “noise pollution” is all part of living in close quarters in apartments, and we’ve refrained from complaining about the noise that comes through to our apartment as well, especially when little ones are afoot!
Again, we’ll do our best to monitor the television volume and hope that it sorts out the problem.
I don’t want to be the passive-aggressive bitch, but I also don’t want to just roll over on it again and let the complaints continue. Especially because I truly feel that we’re the only ones being accommodating here.
So, what would you do? Would you respond? Not respond? Respond in the way I have drafted or in a different way? — Annoyed Neighbor
As an NYC resident who lives in an apartment, I can relate to this. I’ve been on both the receiving end of noise complaints (we have a neighbor who complained that Jackson was crawling too loudly back when he was a baby) and on the giving end of noise complaints. Something I wish I had done earlier rather than later is STOP apologizing for reasonable noise (like a baby crawling). I think by apologizing profusely, you paint yourself as the person in the wrong, even when you’re not, and then the complainers are more apt to complain because they think they’re entitled to whatever they want. But you know who’s actually in the wrong? The people who move to a big city and then expect to never hear their neighbors. Or the people who make unreasonable requests, such as asking a parent to get her toddler to stop walking so fast across the carpeted floor in the middle of a weekday afternoon.
Anyway, I digress. I think your letter is a good one except that you start off right away by apologizing. For something that isn’t even your fault! And then you finish the letter saying you’ll modify your behavior in hopes it solves the problem. But if you want to make clear the problem is not yours, don’t say anything that suggest it could be. I would write your neighbor back like so:
Hi [Upstairs Neighbor],
We haven’t rearranged the furniture in our living area in well over a year, nor do we frequently have the television on during the weekdays after 10:00 PM, so I don’t think the sound you’re hearing is coming from us. I remember another time you mentioned hearing noise from a TV, but we didn’t even have our television on, making me wonder if the sound you’re hearing is actually coming from a different neighbor.
We make an effort to keep the noise levels down, and we will continue to do so. We also accept that “noise pollution” is part of living in close quarters in a big city, and we are understanding and compassionate when the sounds of children, opera class, and general living can be heard in our home. We appreciate the same level of understanding and compassion from you, and we hope you’re able to locate the source of the noise you’re hearing and to reach a satisfactory solution soon.
If your neighbors continue complaining, quit responding to the complaints. I mean, what are they going to do if you just stop responding? Hopefully, move.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.